Austin Talks | State funding available for violence prevention and youth development programs in Austin


Austin nonprofits that work in violence prevention, youth intervention, or youth development can now apply for state grants through the Illinois Bureau of Gun Prevention.

Chris Patterson, Assistant Secretary of the Illinois Department of Social Servicesinvited Austin faith groups and nonprofit leaders to apply for grants at this month’s meeting 15th Police District confessional meeting.

“We want to be able to fund violence prevention and youth development strategies, educate stakeholders and provide technical assistance,” Patterson said.

Patterson leads the new Illinois Office of Gun Prevention in the wake of the Reinventing the Public Safety Act the legislature approved last year, as part of a statewide effort to end Illinois’ “gun epidemic.”

The state office has committed approximately $25 million to fund community-based violence prevention programs in Austin and 32 other Chicago neighborhoods, as well as 16 Greater Chicago areas with the number and rate of victims of highest firearms.

These communities have been identified as areas where gun violence is concentrated and perpetual and affects residents, especially adolescents and youth, who are chronically exposed to violence and related trauma.

Programs that provide mental health resources, economic opportunities and integrated behavioral health services to young people will be prioritized. In addition, programs that prevent high-risk youth from engaging in violence will also be prioritized.

To be eligible for grants, community groups must meet specific requirements, including being GATA certified. The grants will award an average of $300,000 for a period of 12 months.

Patterson said that in every community there are technical assistance partners who will guide organizations through the grant application process. In Austin, organizations will be supported by what about usled by Dorin “Pastor Mac.”

“We don’t always do a great job of communicating and verifying [the] the community knows what’s coming,” Patterson said as he invited faith leaders to share grant opportunities with community groups.

Meanwhile, 15th District Commander Andre Parham acknowledged the importance of community-led interventions to reduce violence by thanking religious leaders for their collaboration.

Parham said the number of shootings in Austin has dropped nearly 70% in the past 28 days, and about 40%, in July 2022 compared to 2021.

He said that in 2021, only two police districts in the city saw a reduction in homicides, Austin being one of them, and that trend continued in 2022 thanks to the efforts of community programs.

“Austin’s crime rates have dropped to an all-time low, and that’s getting a lot of attention from everywhere,” Parham told church leaders. “It’s cultural change, it’s cultural change that you’re spearheading.”

A series of community events taking place this summer have also been announced.

July 23, the fourth annual Community Yard and Vendors event will be held in the parking lot of 5802 W. Madison. Residents will find gently used clothing, furniture, toys, books and items for sale, as well as free refreshments and entertainment.

August 2, the 15th arrondissement will celebrate the year national evening with an event that brings police closer to community members. Refreshments and entertainment will be provided to residents, and the 15th Arrondissement has invited community partners to share information and resources available to residents.

Tonight, Chicago Public Schoolsthe Chicago Parks District and the 15th arrondissement will simultaneously host a back-to-school party, an event that will provide residents with free school supplies. Both events will take place at Moore Park, 5085 W. Adams St., from 5-7 p.m.

August 13, the 15th will join forces with 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mittens for a free community shredding day where residents can safely dispose of documents and records to prevent fraud or identity theft.

“We want you to be able to bring any documents that contain personally identifiable information such as your old bank statements, old tax returns, bills, receipts, credit card applications, medical records,” Constable Collins said.

Also at last week’s denominational meeting, Agent Martinez discussed available programs for youth run by 15th District officers.

Participants of the Explorers program will be able to take part in the third camping trip of the year on Labor Day weekend. “We take young people into a nice and different atmosphere, just giving them the chance to be kids in a safe environment and learn all kinds of different skills,” Martinez said.

Every Monday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the youth mentoring group meets in the 15th arrondissement. The youth group is creating a podcast to change the Austin narrative and want to partner with community organizations to share the work they do through the podcast and social media.

Martinez asked community organizations to invite young participants to their events so they can conduct interviews and produce content for the podcast.

“They’re sick of Austin’s name being generated with drugs and guns, so they want to change the narrative,” he said.

Young people can also take part in “hip hop Tuesdays” every week from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., also in the 15th arrondissement.

To learn more about the Reimagine Public Safety Act grants, visit the Illinois Office of Firearms Prevention website. Groups interested in being GATA certified can visit the Accountability Enhanced Transparency Act website.

For questions about upcoming 15th Ward activities, stop by 5701 W. Madison St. or call (312) 743-1495.


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